Yoga for Runners

Jun 21, 2015 | Yoga

Our popular Yoga for Runners & Cyclists workshops are held at various dates through the year so be sure to sign-up to our newsletters to hear about upcoming events.

In the meantime we’re taking a look at the benefits of yoga for runners with Lexie Williamson‘s excellent article from Guardian.com.

Why should runners do yoga?

Primarily to lengthen tight muscles but also to strengthen the core, feet and ankles; improve running posture; breathe better and even train the mind. The benefits are literally top to toe.

Running is a repetitive movement so particular, specific muscle groups are overtaxed. These include the hamstrings, hip flexors and calves but also the stabilising muscles of the outer hip and thigh, including the often troublesome iliotibial (IT) band.

Yoga helps lengthens out these tight spots, speeding up recovery and restoring a natural range of motion. It might therefore help runners to side step common overuse injuries like IT band syndrome or plantar fasciitis.

On the strength side, yoga helps boost potential weak spots such as the core, and muscles of the feet and ankles which absorb two to three times the body weight on every stride. This is particularly crucial for road runners pounding the pavements. Trail runners, on the other hand, would benefit from yoga’s balancing postures as these improve proprioception – the awareness of the position of our limbs in space (think of hopping nimbly from rock to rock).

Honing the breathing and training the mind are not prime reasons runners turn to yoga – but they are useful additional benefits for all endurance athletes. For example, the mind has a tendency to turn negative and nasty halfway through a race. Yogic mind tricks can help keep it positive and present. Goodbye, gremlins.

Are there any particular stretches that are good for stiff legs?

A simple and effort-free way to ease out stiff legs after a hard run is to lie on your back and loop a yoga strap, dressing gown belt or old tie around the sole of the right foot. Straighten the leg to perform a hamstring stretch.

Now add these variations:

  • Calf stretch: Shuffle the strap to the ball of the foot and push the heel up (grimacing is optional here).
  • IT band/glute stretch: Take the strap in the left hand and slowly draw the leg across the body.
  • Adductor (inner thigh) stretch: Take the strap in the right hand and open the leg out to the right.
  • Stay in each part of the stretch for 30-60 seconds or 5-10 deep

Lexie Williamson is a yoga instructor and the author of Yoga for Runners and Yoga for Cyclists. She has also written for Runner’s World, Women’s Fitness, Outdoor Fitness and Trail Running. She runs, cycles and does sprint-distance triathlon – see more at www.pulseyoga.co.uk.

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